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Home NATIONALFewer Finns want referendum on joining NATO
Sat, 09 Jul, 2016 02:10:41 AM
FTimes-Xinhua Report, Jul 9

The result of British referendum on the exit from the European Union (EU) appears to have affected Finnish civic attitudes towards decision making about a possible Finnish membership in NATO.

The idea of insisting on a referendum over joining NATO lost support in two polls commissioned by Finland's leading media houses. The results were published simultaneously on Friday.

Polls commissioned by the national broadcaster Yle and the commercial broadcaster MTV along with newspaper Aamulehti indicated the support of a referendum on Finnish NATO membership now has support levels of 48 and 42 percent respectively. Only a year and a half ago, a poll by YLE indicated 62 percent of Finns insisted upon a referendum.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö has said for several times recently that a referendum should be arranged if Finland wants to apply for a NATO membership.

However, analysts believe the NATO supporters would rather let the parliament to approve it as majority of Finns still favor not to join the military organization.

Analysts say referendum is mainly demanded by those opposing to Finnish membership in NATO, and they hope to kill the proposal once for all. But the recent referendum in Britain has shown that it may not be a sound solution.

"Brexit indicated that plebiscites in tumultuous situations may bring results that have not been considered carefully enough," said Mika Aaltola, Head of Research Programs at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

Aaltola told newspaper Aamulehti that representative democracy has gained in esteem and a move has taken place away from plebiscites.

Aaltola said that to some in Finland, a membership of the EU has been an alternative to that of NATO. "But now perhaps the sense of security associated with the EU has evaporated," he said.

He said that support of a NATO membership is now higher at least when the interviewees are asked in combination of the future of the EU.

In the latest MTV-AL poll, 29 percent said Finland should remain in the EU and also join NATO, and 9 percent of respondents supported the alternative that Finland should leave the EU and join NATO. The two figures added up to 38 percent, the highest ever in Finland.

Tapio Raunio, professor of politology at the University of Tampere said on Friday the opposition to NATO has been surprisingly stable in Finland irrespective of the international situation.

Talking to newspaper Aamulehti, Raunio attributed the opposition to NATO to the long tradition of non-alignment in Finland.

He also noted the political leadership of Finland does not openly flag in support of going to NATO. Only the Conservative Party is in favor, but does not campaign on the issue.

Raunio said he does not believe NATO would be the theme of next parliamentary election in three years time.

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